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Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and Paper Things, this heart-wrenching middle grade debut considers homelessness from one girl’s perspective and explores deep truths about the resounding impact of empathy.
Fifth grade can be tough for anyone. There are cliques and mean kids and homework and surprise math tests. But after tragedy strikes her family, almost-eleven-year-old Maya has a painful secret that makes many days feel nearly impossible.
And today might be Maya’s toughest yet. Her family is on edge, she needs to travel alone across the city, a bully is out to get her, and Maya has to face this winter’s biggest rainstorm without a coat or an umbrella.
But even on the rainiest days, there’s hope that the sun will come out soon.
Emotional and compassionate, Shelter looks at homelessness through one girl’s eyes and explores the power of empathy, friendship, and love.
Shelter is a middle grade contemporary novels that follows Maya’s story as she navigate homelessness after a life threatening injury her dad experiences and her home being sold by their landlord turns her world upside down. And to top it off, she has to keep her homelessness a secret for fear of being bullied for it. But this doesn’t stop Maya from hoping that things will get better. Shelter was a quick read that adds a different perspective to how most view homelessness and influences people to ponder more about the negative stereotypes society may put upon homeless people.
After the accident that has left her dad in a coma [medically induced], Maya’s mom now struggles to navigate being a single mom of two. Gabby, Maya’s younger sisters has many allergies and illnesses which makes it harder for Maya’s mom to keep a steady job and care for her daughter. Keeping the secret that you are homeless can be hard for a 5th grader but we view in Maya’s journey her ability to create a façade for her peers. I overall enjoyed the support of Maya’s teachers throughout the story. I also appreciated Maya’s story also having a strong friendship component; it allowed me as a reader to not focus too much on the theme and see Maya for more than just a young girl going through many situations. I also enjoyed Maya’s character. She felt very mature for her young age and it was mostly given her circumstances. But what I enjoyed most about Maya was her hopefulness – she was able to find some good among a very unpredictable journey. She is also generous – she is willing to give her last bit of food to a homeless boy. It rings true to her altruistic spirit.
It was a pretty good read. It was under 200 pages and told the story in the way that it could. I wasn’t fully invested and I tihnk it was mostly because I was not the target reader for this. Nonetheless, I do recommend this book to anyone who has a middle grade reader in their life. It is a sweet story about perseverance, hope and navigating a tough struggle with optimism. You don’t often read about homelessness through the eyes of a child which is just as important. It makes you think a bit differently and for good reason.
About the Author
Christie Matheson is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including Tap the Magic Tree, Touch the Brightest Star, and Bird Watch. Shelter is her first novel. She lives in San Francisco with her family. Find her on Instagram at @christiematheson.